Italy minister sees Eni share buyback as good way to cut state’s stake

ROME (Reuters) – Cutting Italy’s stake in Eni by using the company’s share buyback scheme is a good idea, Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters this month that several investment banks had approached the Treasury with offers to help it sell part of its stake in the energy company.

They said the group’s current share buyback would allow Rome to reduce its holding without losing full control.

“It’s a proposal which makes sense. It’s a good idea,” Giorgetti told reporters in parliament.

Shares in Eni fell 0.6% following Giorgetti’s remarks.

Italy aims to raise some 20 billion euros ($21.97 billion) from asset disposals through 2026 to keep in check the euro zone’s second-largest debt pile as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).

The government currently owns around 32.4% of Eni, chiefly through the 27.7% it holds indirectly via state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), as the Treasury has a small direct 4.7% stake.

Announced in May, Eni’s share buyback is in progress and is expected to increase the government’s total stake to just above 34% of voting shares.

Once completed, the Treasury could potentially sell enough shares for Italy to maintain slightly more than 30% of Eni’s capital when factoring in the CDP’s stake, the sources said.

At current market prices, 4% of Eni is worth more than 2 billion euros.

($1 = 0.9102 euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, writing by Gianluca Semeraro, editing by Cristina Carlevaro and Gavin Jones)